Adjusting to a Foreign Country

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. –Walt Disney

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Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea

This is a much-needed update about my time in Korea. I feel bad for not doing well in keeping up with my posts, but transitioning to a new life makes it hard to find time for anything except breathing and eating. I’ve been in Korea for a little over a month now and have been officially teaching English for four weeks. If you are looking for someone to paint you a false picture of all rainbows and sparkles about moving to another country, then don’t look here! I will be honest and say it is a big adjustment and I am trying to learn to love myself through the process.

First, I’ll start by sharing my experiences with teaching. I have to say that week one of teaching felt like a disaster and was one of my more stressful experiences. I had so much to learn and so much to do and was making a million and one mistakes every day that it is no wonder that I cried my first day of teaching. Despite this, I was pretty excited to be teaching and adored the kids. The weeks that followed were much better and I have been adjusting pretty well to the crazy teaching schedule. I really do love teaching these kids and they are so adorable!

I teach five-year-olds five classes in the morning and early afternoon (Korean age is actually a year or two older than American age, so the five-year-olds are actually around three- or four-years-old). They are my favorite classes to teach because they are so sweet and loving! They tell me constantly that they love me and give me many hugs. I really do love them! After a short break/prep time, I teach four classes of first graders that come from another school. I am slowly learning to enjoy teaching them too. They definitely were not my favorite that first week, but now I actually enjoy teaching them on most days. Because they are older, I feel they can sometimes be a bit hard to control. However, after getting some classroom management help, I’ve been doing much better.

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My first graders drawing and reading after their monthly exam.

I still make a lot of mistakes every day, but teaching is a learning experience. I know I will continue to get better and learn the best way to help my students the most! I want them to do well. Grading, although sometimes a lot of work, can be quite entertaining. It is fun to see what the kids think about and their thought processes. I have laughed many times, because who would not laugh when a kid compares himself to a parrot because he is a good listener? Or when they are supposed to create a new creature and one says that his creature has 100,000,000 billion teeth? It is pretty entertaining.

We had a pajama day for the five-, six-, and seven-year-olds this last Friday, which was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. I wore my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fuzzy pajama bottoms and was petted and hugged by many little children that day. My favorite was either the dino slippers one boy wore, or the boy who was so proud to show me his alphabet pajamas. I am glad I work at a place that has dress up days! Halloween is next!

 

 

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Brayden’s dino slippers for Pajama Day.

 

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Yeonjun’s alphabet pajamas he was so proud to show me.
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My homeroom class on Pajama Day.

I love talking about the kids and can probably talk about them all day. I obviously will not–But here are some more pictures!

 

Since I am at work most of the time, my time outside work has been spent relaxing, cleaning my apartment, cooking, eating and sleeping. I have struggled with figuring out how to shop for food the most. I can clean, organize, and do laundry just fine. Cooking and shopping for food? I have no clue what I am doing. I never knew it was this hard to figure out. My first two weeks were ramen and curry every night. Not doing a whole lot better about my meals now, but have been taking it a meal at a time.

There are no driers here, so I hang my clothes to dry. I have no problem with doing this until it is an extra humid day and the clothes take three days to dry. Or when they dry wrinkled and I have no way to unwrinkled them. Still a struggle. I probably will invest in a steamer. I do find that I do better with laundry here though than I did back home. I am not entirely sure why, but it is true.

I have figured out how to handle the wet floor from the showers (since you just shower on the bathroom floor), so it is no longer that much of a problem. However, my skin reacts strongly to the water here. Maybe because of the chemicals used to clean the water, but I wash my face with bottle water and am looking for a shower head filter. Itching on my hands after washing my hands is not too bad, but itching on my back, arms, chest, neck, and head while showering is something else entirely. Also found out I am allergic to the body wash I have been using for the past several months. Yay! Now I have to be weary about all the products I use. My face and hair have not liked the move here either, and am currently looking for ways to solve those problems.

I have enjoyed exploring my city during the weekends, taking time to explore stores, restaurants, cafes, churches, and just getting used to how to get around. My friend/coworker and I have decided we like the trains better than the buses, against what most of our other coworkers think. Trains seem much more straightforward to us and less stressful than buses where you have to find the right bus and press the stop button when you get off. We had several bad experiences with them and no bad experiences with trains. So, we like trains. We walk so much here that I think I lost some weight from it all. I am used to feeling my feet and legs ache.

However, maybe because of the stress of moving, teaching, time change, food change, weather and air change, I think my immune system is down. I’ve been sick the past two weeks which makes it hard to explore as much as I would like. I am in the process of trying to build my immune system back up. I’m ready to not have to cough every five minutes.

Because this week is a big Korean holiday called Chuseok, I have three days off work so I was able to go to Seoul this past weekend and meet up with some friends and explore. It was a great way to release some stress and just have some fun, even if I got sick after coming back. We explored Myeongdong, Gangnam, did some karaoke, and went to Namsan Tower and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a blast and I am excited for my next adventure! It was also nice to see some familiar faces and I really enjoyed hanging with my friends!

Since I have been struggling with some acne and hair problems, I have been trying to learn to love myself with those imperfections. It is much easier to love yourself when you don’t hate looking at yourself in the mirror. It is something I know God has been working with me on. So, I’ve been focusing a lot on trying to love myself with the imperfections as I am trying to find the solution, and how not to stress as I stress about things too much. Everything has worked out so far, so there is no need to stress!

Final update, I have a bank account, my alien registration card, and a Korean phone number even if I am planning to switch around my phone plan. I will get my first full pay check in a couple of weeks, and will have to pay my first month of bills soon after. Little by little I am settling in for my year of living here!

I am really glad to be here and really do love my job, even if things have not been super easy. And I do have some prayer requests!

  • Please continue to pray that I would be able to find a home church while I am here!
  • I would love prayer for my body. I need to build back up my immune system so I can stop being sick.
  • Also, that I can find a good shower filter so I can take a shower without itching like crazy and getting red marks all over my body.
  • Prayer that I will be able to make some more friends here!
  • I would always like prayer that I will continue to learn how to be a good teacher.
  • Please pray for my students as well!
  • Prayer that I will be able to pick up on the language while I am here
  • Prayer that I’ll have a better ease at locating the things I need. I still have had no luck locating a few necessities in stores.

Kicking Fear in the Face

Moving past the wishing was requiring me to walk into my fears…The reality is that many times in life in order to have the types of relationships we desire, the careers we dream of, and the influence we hope for, we will need to kick fear in the face and go after it. –Past the Wishing by Jen Deweerdt

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For the past week, I have been in South Korea, but I still feel like this is a dream. Although I have experienced a lot of fear and excitement for this new adventure, I must say it has not sunk in yet, whether it be because I have gone on short term trips before and expect to return in a few weeks or because I’m still living out of a suitcase. Whatever the case, I am here but do not feel like I am really here. Being in South Korea, preparing to teach English to children, and adjusting to this idea of living in a foreign country has not been all rainbows and sparkles. Obviously, I did not expect it to be and maybe that is why I am doing okay.

There were days where I was short-tempered because of lack of sleep and jetlag, tired feet, and growling stomachs. There were days of terrifying fear. There were days of soaked clothes because I had no umbrella, or an aching back from weird sleeping positions and lots of walking. And there have been days of a few tears as well. The four most common emotions and feelings I have felt since being here is excitement, fear, tired, and feeling overwhelmed. However, things are starting settle in, and my excitement is growing.

The first three days of being in South Korea were spent just exploring my city, my new home. My mom and I rode trains and buses, ate at restaurants, visited tourist sites, cat cafes, and museums, and even climbed up a mountain and looked down at the breathtaking landscape (though the cable car did most of the work). All the Korean I studied before the move seemed to vanish from my mind the moment I stepped into the plane to head to South Korea. So much for all the studying…I pray I can learn this language quickly.

After becoming a little familiar with the city and its transportation (thank you, Japan, for helping me), it was time to meet the people I have been communicating with online for several months, to see where I will be working, and what I will be doing. And I was so nervous. What if they do not like me? What if I do not like them? What if I do not like the school’s atmosphere? However, those fears slowly slipped away after meeting person after person, observing classes full of brilliant Korean children, and starting my training. I began to feel that maybe I might like it here. I clicked surprisingly well with the students in the first class I observed, only to find out later that I would be their main homeroom teacher the following week. Out of all the classes I observed in the next week, I definitely seemed to click with them the most and was able to observe many of their classes.

I must say that the work, rules, and expectations seem a bit overwhelming especially that first day. I felt lost, underqualified, and underprepared. But then I remember that God does not always call the qualified. He qualifies the called. And I know that I have all the tools I need to succeed here, because God is with me. Of course, the teachers at the school were super supportive and have given me so many tools in which to get through my next week of teaching. They encouraged me by reminding me that mistakes will be made but I will continue to learn and grow. To quote one of my coworkers, “You are a good teacher. But even if you are not one now, you will be.” Much need encouragement.

After my first day of training, I was moved out of the hotel I was sharing with my mom to the motel provided by the school until I can move into my apartment. I must say that first night was not my happiest moment. It was lower quality than I would have wished and I was supposed to stay there all alone. The locks on the doors were iffy which just made me feel even more unsafe. And my mom was about to head back home and leave me alone in this foreign country. I was really missing my boyfriend a lot as well. But I encouraged myself by remembering that God is a better protector than doors, and I was safer in His will than out of it and being here was something I felt God was leading me to do. So, He will keep me safe. I also reminded myself of all the missionary stories I’ve heard and knew if God could protect them from scarier situations than being in a questionable motel, then I will be okay.

The next day I met the other new teachers, and immediately was comforted that I was not the only one feeling tired, lost, and overwhelmed. I was not the only one trying to figure out how to live in a foreign country while trying to learn how the new job worked. Since that day, I have been feeling much better, and have been throwing myself in preparing to teach English.

Since the motel had no WiFi, I would wake up early and walk down to a nearby Starbucks and message friends and family back home, then go to training. We usually finished training around 6:30p or 7pm, and then the new teachers and I would go look for dinner before heading back to the motel.

One other thing I was worrying about throughout the week was finding a good home church while I was here in South Korea. I was worrying that I would have to do the exploring by myself, but then I reminded myself once again that God provides. If God brought me here, then He will provide the way and the church and the friends. After praying about it one day, I was amazed when one of the teachers brought up her church to which I immediately pounced on it. Wrote down all the info and one of the new teachers and I are planning to check it out this Sunday. God really does provide.

Today is the day I move into my apartment! I am excited to finally have a place and not have to move luggage around. I am excited to unpack, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and buy things for the apartment. Today and tomorrow I will be busy prepping for the next week of classes I will be teaching, and despite the fear I feel about teaching English for the first time, I am so excited to be a teacher of three, four, five, and six-year-olds. These kids are incredibly smart and can speak a lot of English already. I am already making plans for what I want to do. And yesterday I was able to buy some school supplies for myself, which also made me feel super excited to be a teacher.

The kids are super cute and sweet, the people are kind, and I really do think I will like it here. Excited for this adventure!

Some prayer requests:

  1. My back has been aching really bad and has been giving me a lot of problems. There have been several days I have not been able to bend over. I am doing daily back stretches which have been helping, but I would appreciate some prayer for healing.
  2. I would also appreciate continued prayer that I will be able to have a good home church here
  3. On top of that, some good friends outside of work. 😊
  4. I would love prayer that I will be able to fully prepare for this next week of classes, that the kids will respond well to the teacher changes, and that they will be able to continue to learn well!
  5. I would also like prayer for speedy results for Alien registration so I can open a bank account here and get a phone plan!
  6. Pray that I learn this language quickly!

—The Adversity Rose—

Kaitlyn Rose

DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.

This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.

Moving to South Korea

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

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Photo I took of Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, Japan (2017)

The official date of me leaving the US for South Korea will be August 16th and I can hardly believe it. I will begin my exciting, but scary adventure teaching English and living in a foreign country in less than three weeks! Although this has been a dream of mine since I was thirteen years old, I cannot say that this process has been easy and I haven’t been struggling with the stress of it. So many fears fill my head everyday and have made it hard to have peace. There is the fear of not being a good English teacher, there is the fear I won’t enjoy it, there is the fear I won’t be able to go because of some complication of the Visa or finances…There is the sadness of not seeing close family and friends for a year (not to mention getting into a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend). And there is the fear of loneliness. Those are just a few of many fears that have tried to bog me down–fears that seemed to be determined to make me doubt my decision to go. Despite all of this, I know I made the right decision and still am determined to go. So, I wanted to take a moment to inform people (specifically family and friends) a little more about this trip.

Most people know about EPIK when teaching abroad in South Korea. I have been asked over and over if it is with EPIK. I am actually not part of EPIK and will not be teaching via EPIK. I found a recruiting company for English teachers in South Korea called Travel and Teach Recruiting (TTR) on my university’s job portal last summer and looked into it for about seven or eight months (praying, thinking, weighing, deciding) before I applied in February. I did not actually tell anyone at first (not even my parents) because I did not want to be talked out of it or talk about it and then decide not to do it. I just wanted to see what would happen if I took a step in that direction.

Teaching English in Asia had been something I had only dreamed about. It was not something I seriously considered doing until last summer after my month-long trip to Japan. Sure, I talked about it every now and then growing up and listened as the adults talked about it. Sure, I would look in my university’s library at Asian-themed books and teaching-English-as-a-second-language books. Sure, I looked into classes outside my major on teaching English as a second language or English classes in general (because I do love English and had considered it as a minor). But I did not think seriously about it until May 2017, when I found myself standing in Japan and loving every second of it.

I have been to Thailand and Australia in the past, and though I did love Thailand and enjoyed my time in Australia—my love for Japan was on another level. I initially looked into teaching in Japan but found the teaching conditions were better in South Korea. I had no problem switching because I had been wanting to see South Korea as well, and I would still be doing what I wanted to do.

One of my friends who I met through work at my university actually taught English for a year in South Korea. So when she reconnected with me, she told me all about her experience and answered all my questions. It was not until she said I could pay off my student loan while teaching that I decided that maybe I could do this (it was my primary goal to pay it off ASAP so it would not hold me back from doing what I wanted—but if I could do what I wanted AND pay it off then I was all for it).

Fast forward to applying for the recruiting company and not telling anyone about it (except for mentioning it once or twice to select people). I had my voice interview online and was accepted. I was told that they will be looking for a job opening for me if I would start on gathering the needed documents for a visa. Well, being busy with my senior year, I kind of procrastinated on my part until I was set up for an interview with a school. By then, I had informed my parents. A few days after the interview, I was contacted and told that I was offered the job! In order to hold the position I was offered, however, I needed to decide whether I wanted to sign the contract pretty quickly.
Shock and panic is an understatement of how I felt in that moment. I was offered a job at a school in South Korea and I was given maybe a week to decide to accept it. What a blow. One moment I was tentatively playing with the idea of doing something I always wanted to do and the next I was deciding whether I would commit to moving to a foreign country for a year with a language I did not speak while teaching English (which I felt completely unprepared to do), leaving behind the friends and family in the city I was born in and had lived in all my life. The stress and anxiety I felt while making that decision was beyond most stress I had ever felt. I felt myself caving. Because it would be easier to cave into the timidity and fear, easier to just stay, easier to give up on that dream. It would be easier to stay in my comfort zone. But caving in now would only cause regret and wonder later in life and prevent me from showing myself that all things were possible with God. That God really could make that timid thirteen-year-old’s doubtful dream become a reality.

So, with trepidation, I signed what felt like my life away to teach a year in South Korea.

Only people who know me and know how I was growing up might fully understand just how big of a step this was for me. I had allowed my fear to dictate a large portion of my life, never doing something too horrendously outside my comfort zone. Though, I did make some decisions which were probably stepping stones to get me to the point in my life where I was willing to take a greater leap outside of the walls of my comfort.

I wish, I wish, I wish I could fully describe and stress how much I doubted I would ever do this. The dream first came to me when I was thirteen years old after my first life-changing trip to Thailand. I was bitten by the travel bug, by the mission’s bug, by the desire to step out of my comfort zone. Before Thailand, I was fine with staying in my comfort zone—I mean it was comfortable and I was doing perfectly fine in it. After Thailand, I began to dream that I would become bolder and be a missionary for Christ.

It was that desire that led me to go to Australia (even though it was not Asia) when I was eighteen, and later Japan, and eventually preparing for a year in South Korea. If only I could tell thirteen-year-old me that it is possible and not to be disappointed in my shyness and fear. If only I could tell my little self that despite the immense fear, I was still going for it and that the eradication of fear is not needed in order to go after what you feel God has called you to do. If only I could tell little me that God fights hard for those who seek Him, and He was not going to disappoint me.

So, after signing away my next year to go live and teach in South Korea, I began gathering the needed documents. For anyone interested in doing this, it is okay if you have no idea how to go about teaching in a foreign country—do not worry as you will figure it out as you go and there are plenty resources online. Also, the visa process is not an easy, breezy, non-stressful task and costs an unfortunate amount of money. Especially for those times you forget to sign a page and have to send the signed page through speed-mail and pay just as much as you did sending the original packet (try your best to avoid doing that—there will be less stress and will be a little less expensive). And boy! Do you have to mail so many things! So, when you’re on a time-crunch and have to wait to receive your diploma to do most of the steps, procrastination is not your friend and being proactive is (thankfully, I was so stressed about it, I rarely procrastinated).

With this entire visa process they sure make sure you are serious about this moving business, because I do not know anyone who would go through all of that without being certain. It makes you second-guess yourself a lot. I often wondered if I really should be doing this since I get so stinkin’ stressed about it. But these wonderings never wavered the assurance I felt of going. No matter how much tears were shed or how many acne breakouts there were and continue to be or how much extra hair was lost—I was not going to back down. But I am going to figure out how to de-stress and stop worrying over every detail. I do not want to live like that, no way! God has me, and it is going to be fine.

Since I have completed all the visa steps and am just waiting for the visa to be mailed to me, and since the flight itinerary is being settled, and piles are starting to cover my room as I think about what to bring, it’s starting to feel a little more tangible. I am starting to feel like I am actually going and the excitement is starting to overpower the worry (Thankfully!). What a crazy ride it has been so far!

So, this is what my journey has been so far. I will have a week of training when I arrive and will start officially teaching the following week. I am unsure when my breaks are and how long they are, so currently there are no plans of visiting home during my year in S. Korea. I will be working long hours, so I expect to be tired, and will be working with kindergarten and early elementary children (my favorite age-group). I will have housing provided for and heard it is near the school (which is convenient). I’m still in the process of figuring out bank and phone details but hope to have that squared away soonish.

If you have any more questions, please comment below or private message me! I just wanted to share a bit more about how I decided to do this, how the trip is coming and where I am currently in the process. I hope this helped! I hope to eventually write more about this!

P.S. the hardest part of deciding what to bring with me as I prepare to move to another country is the books. I want to bring them all but having access to my library’s ebooks and audiobooks via an app on my phone has lowered the number to three currently (though I still feel the temptation to add to it). I also heard that I will be able to have access to the library in the city I am living and that there is an English section. Huzzah for reading!

—The Adversity Rose—

Kaitlyn Rose

DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.

This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.